Death rates are increasing among young US adults of all races, new data reveal.
Prior to 2010, premature deaths were becoming less and less common for all ages.
But at the turn of the decade, when the opioid epidemic started to take hold of the nation, there was a sharp shift for 25- to 44-year-olds.
The uptick, revealed in a CDC report published today, was so sharp that deaths hit 10-year records for young African Americans and young Hispanic Americans, and a 20-year record for young whites, in 2017.
The only age group that saw a decrease in deaths was the over-65s.
Experts say there are other factors at play beyond overdoses – years of progress to cut heart disease deaths has ground to a halt, and many of the deaths are associated with other types of injuries – but drugs are likely behind the dramatic statistic shift.
OVERALL DEATH RATES BY RACE: The drug overdose crisis hit all young Americans (aged 25-44) hard, including Hispanic Americans who have not been widely discussed as part of the epidemic
The new report shows, yet again, that death rates have soared sharpest among young white Americans in the past decade.
But Andrew Fenelon, a health policy researcher at the University of Maryland, told the Wall Street Journal that the significant increases among all races show that whites were not overwhelmingly blighted by the opioid epidemic: others were too.
Historically, Hispanic Americans have the lowest mortality rates, closely followed by white Americans.
On mortality graphs, there has long been a large gap between those two lines and that of African Americans.
In the past few decades, efforts to treat stress and diet-related heart conditions in African Americans have been incredibly successful at narrowing the gap, though, as of 2010 – the lowest point recently recorded – there was still far to go.
According to the new data, that gap has narrowed further, but not in positive direction.
White Americans saw the fastest rise in death rates after 2010, likely driven by the overdose epidemic, and even though African American death rates soared, too, the uptick was not as sharp.
The gap in mortality rates between Hispanic Americans and whites has widened.
For adults aged 45 to 65, death rates also rose (albeit marginally) for whites and blacks, though decreased (again, marginally) for Hispanics.
At the turn of the decade, when the opioid epidemic started to take hold of the nation, there was a sharp shift for 25- to 44-year-olds
For adults aged 45 to 65, death rates also rose (albeit marginally) for whites and blacks, though decreased (again, marginally) for Hispanics
The premature death rate for over-65s has steadily plummeted, but in 2010 that progress slowed for white Americans meaning that, for the first time, they have the highest death rates of any race in old age
Meanwhile, over-65s continued an astounding drop in death rates, with whites and blacks (who’ve historically had similar death rates in old age) hurtling down towards the low death rates enjoyed by older Hispanic Americans.
However, in 2010, for the first time in recent history, white Americans became the race with the highest premature death rates in old age. As black Americans’ drop in death rates remained steady, whites started to move towards a plateau, likely driven by the opioid epidemic.